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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017

Hummer Us!

Posted Friday, August 17, 2012, at 8:22 AM

I chose hummers as my first blog because I think of all of the songbirds, people are most fascinated by these small "jewels". In our area you most likely will be seeing the ruby-throated hummingbird. This bird is so named because the male has a brilliant red patch on his throat. The female looks exactly the same minus the patch.

I want to address some of the most common questions people have about hummers. First, these birds do have legs! I have addressed this issue many times. Trust me, setting a fractured leg on a hummingbird is one of the most tedious things I have ever done.

Feeders must contain red water. Not! The color red attracts hummers, but most feeders have red coloration. The "red" food is not healthy for the birds. The most natural food we can provide is sugar water. The formula is 1 part sugar and 4 parts water, brought to a gentle boil and cooled. This is the closest to flower nectar that we can provide. Make lots of it and keep it in the frig - the birds love cool water during the hot summer days. When it's hot outside, change the water daily. Would you want to drink fermented sugar water?

A hummingbird's diet is primarily made up of small insects. But, nectar and sugar water are very important because of the energy they provide.

The hummers you see now are the ones which breed and nest in this area. These birds are here from July until October. Birds seen outside that time frame are migrating through here either to or from more northern places on their way back to South America.

When it's time to migrate, leaving your feeder out will not keep them here! Migration is a natural instinct and mere food will not keep them from their goal. Hang your feeders out from April through October. This is really important this year because of the drought across the country.

Enjoy your birds! That's the reason God made them for!

I am happy to answer any questions and would love to read about some of your hummer experiences.

Showing comments in chronological order
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Your comment about the red coloring being unnecessary reminded me of years ago when I was volunteering, as I sometimes do, at an arts camp for special needs kids. At this particular program, "special needs" is defined very broadly, and included kids with ADD or ADHD alongside those with physical or developmental disabilities.

Anyway, for a couple of years one of my fellow volunteers was a woman with an advanced degree in child care, and she kept trying to tell the group that put on the camp not to serve red Kool-Aid, because the food coloring was supposedly a bad idea for ADD/ADHD kids. The camp staff kept insisting that they'd looked it up and the Kool-Aid used a different red coloring than the one to which my friend was referring. I have no idea who was right, but I don't think either side ever backed down.

-- Posted by jcarney on Fri, Aug 17, 2012, at 10:12 AM

Welcome! Fermented sugar water kind of sounds like booze. Hmmmm.

Why do hummers fight so much? It seems even with their mates. Wait, that might not be that unusual.

But seriously, they seem to burn up a lot more energy fighting than foraging. We've tried separating the feeders, but some busy body always seems to not want ANYONE else to share.

-- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Aug 17, 2012, at 1:41 PM

Hummingbirds are very territorial during breeding season. In the fall, when they mass before starting their migration, I think they are less aggressive.

-- Posted by lazarus on Fri, Aug 17, 2012, at 3:06 PM

Those little hummers are ferocious! We should be grateful they are so small.

-- Posted by wildwoman on Fri, Aug 17, 2012, at 3:10 PM

Regarding fall gatherings, I agree that something seems different. There are certainly more around the feeder, but I though that was because word got out about the great cuisine.

Vicky, earlier this year some of us were of the opinion that the hummers were later than usual. Do you have a thought on that? You might have been one of the responders, since I rarely know who is who on here. :-)

-- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Aug 18, 2012, at 8:05 AM

I did respond, but have since changed my log-in name!

Migration is an instinct that is unaffected by almost anything. The birds that come through here from April until June are heading further north - even into Canada.

I believe the "lateness" was because we experienced an early spring with lots of flowers blooming ahead of schedule, plus the weather was warm enough for insects to emerge early. Therefore, there was more natural food available.

Si, I don't think they were late. I think the hummers chose natural food. Of course, I am only reading their little minds!

-- Posted by wildwoman on Sat, Aug 18, 2012, at 9:28 AM

Thoughtful mind reading. It makes sense. Thanks!

-- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Aug 18, 2012, at 12:45 PM

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Vicky Carder is a Shelbyville native. In 1991 she founded Walden's Puddle Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Nashville. There she served as Executive Director for more than 12 years. The Center is the largest wildlife hospital in Middle Tennessee. She has published in wildlife national and international journals. Now she wants to share her knowledge of native wildlife and some of the experiences she had while working with wildlife.
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